Happy Wednesday, everyone. Once again, it’s my turn to fill in for Josh going MLB Bulleting, and if you think the Astros sign-stealing scandal is going to go away just because spring training games start this weekend... think again.
- In a second news conference this week, this time in Arizona, Commissioner Rob Manfred apologized for calling the Commissioner’s Trophy a “piece of metal.” That is, if you consider this an apology:
“I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way, and I want to apologize for it,” Manfred said. “There’s no excuse for it. ... It was a mistake to say what I said.”
It’s more than just “a mistake.” It’s probably the single worst thing he’s said in his five-plus years as commissioner.
- Evan Drellich points out the difficulty that the commissioner would have had in punishing Astros players, not just because of promises of immunity but because of federal labor law. (The Athletic subscription required)
- Jeff Passan makes the same point about federal labor law (in an article that’s not behind a paywall) about federal labor law and also goes into an examination of the claims about José Altuve’s tattoo. (Can you believe we’re even talking about how a tattoo is or isn’t evidence? Baseball in the year 2020.)
- Michael McCann focuses on how the scandal is dividing the Players Association. McCann, who is an attorney, also believes that MLB could get around federal labor law in punishing the players, although he kind of glosses over that point.
- Ken Rosenthal reports that commissioner Rob Manfred regrets not attacking the problem of sign-stealing sooner. (The Athletic subscription required)
- Ben Lindberg explains why the Astros’ sign-stealing is going to continue to dominate the headlines for the foreseeable future.
- Craig Calcaterra writes a speech for commissioner Manfred to deliver that would be a big step in the right direction. This is excellent writing and would get Manfred some respect; of course, you’ll never hear these words from the Commissioner.
- Craig also posts a letter from an angry and disappointed Astros fan.
- Bill Shea spoke with public relations “crisis managers” about what the Astros are doing wrong. (The Athletic subscription required)
- Buster Olney reports that several players are upset that MLB is protecting Astros players from retaliation. (A lot of this is “What if I accidentally hit an Astro? Is it going to be like the umpire had warned me already?”) Will the Astros break the MLB record for HBP in a season? In case you are wondering, the record is 103, set by the 2008 Indians. The Astros team record is 100, set in 1997. Craig Biggio, who had 34, had a lot to do with that.
- Angels outfielder Mike Trout broke his silence and spoke out against the Astros and calls for the players to be punished. (And can you imagine what Mike Trout would hit if he knew what pitch was coming?)
- Fabian Ardaya thinks it’s a huge deal that Mike Trout is finally speaking out about something other than the weather. He hopes that it’s a sign that Trout is ready to accept a leadership role in the game. (The Athletic subscription required)
- Harry Lyles Jr. has some ways that fans can troll the Astros this season.
Believe it or not, there are other baseball things to discuss today!
- Rian Watt argues that the pay increase for minor league players is simply not enough. (He’s right.)
- The Giants agree that it isn’t enough. They’re implementing the pay increase this season (instead of in 2021) and they’re giving every minor leaguer housing with a host family (at the lower levels) or a housing allowance stipend (at the higher levels). A good step in the right direction.
- Clinton Yates has a great piece on the sons of African-American baseball players on their decision to follow in their dad’s footsteps or choose a different sport to play.
- Will Leitch is sad that outfielder Yasiel Puig is still unsigned as Spring Training starts. He writes that baseball is better with Puig, admitting that he may be better on someone else’s favorite team.
- Leitch also lists one player on each MLB team who’s ready to break out in 2020. (It’s Happ-ening!)
- Sam Miller looks back at the trade that sent Ken Griffey Jr. from the Mariners to the Reds and then writes up scouting reports for the three biggest names rumored to be available in trade this spring, including Kris Bryant.
- David Schoenfield looks at different ways in which teams could use their 26th man this year.
- Mike Axisa lists the best current player for every age, from 18 to 41.
- Six beat writers talk about what it’s like to cover Spring Training. (The Athletic subscription required)
- Michael Hopps reads and compares two classic “insider” books, Jim Brosnan’s The Long Season and Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. He sees the two books as very different, but both are “Workplace Documentaries.”
- It’s time for players to get their Spring Training photos and once again, Reds first baseman Joey Votto goes the extra mile to make his photo different. We’ll have some fun photos from Cubs photo day later on today.
Can you stand one more Astros story? This one’s fun.
- Justin Sayles goes in-depth on the Altuve “tattoo” explanation, whether it holds water and about baseball tattoos in general. (This is a part-serious story and part-fun story about tattoos in baseball.)
- The Rangers are opening a new stadium this year and as part of getting their new home ready, they had a giant “flush” of every toilet at the same time.
And it just wouldn’t be MLB Bullets if I didn’t say: Today will be a better day than yesterday, Buster.